While I have been attending the Tridentine Mass since 2005, I had attended a cousin’s first communion a few months ago. The Mass was celebrated in the Ordinary Form/Novus Ordo and I had noticed these two things:
-The Gospel was read by a first communicant, rather by a deacon or the priest. The priest also acted out the scene, as Jesus, that was read in the gospel.
-Before the Our Father was recited, the priest invited all the children up to the sanctuary. They all stood around the altar table and held hands for the Our Father.
Are the things acceptable or are they considered to be liturgical abuse?
It is not OK. The rubrics of the Mass, which are ecclesiastical laws (cf. Canon 2) do not permit this. It is poor catechesis because it teaches the children that they can do things at Mass that are not permitted. By showing them how to do things at Mass that are not permitted it fails to teach the children obedience to the Church. It denies the children the authentic liturgy of the Church. It can be no good thing to teach children those things that are wrong. Teaching them to be disobedient to the Church and to not respect the liturgy cannot bring them closer to the Lord.
Putting aside the fact that simply because we think it’s okay doesn’t make it okay - the Church has forbidden liturgical abuse and it is not our place to overrule the Church - what is the cost of it? An incorrect understanding of the Mass and devaluing the sacred nature of the rite, encouraging them to disregard the importance of rules in our society and make further abuse at their own initiative. There are so many other ways to get the children involved and interested in the Mass, so why choose one that comes at the expense of our most ancient of Traditions?
Both these things are not permitted. I think allowing a child to read the Gospel at Mass is quite shocking. Are you sure it wasn’t one of the readings, rather than the Gospel?
If the priest wants to make the Mass more ‘child friendly’ then he can do this through a child-friendly homily. He can do it through the choice of hymns, and accompanying instruments. He can have children do the readings. He can have them write and read the Prayers of the Faithful. He can have them bring up the gifts. He can sing the Our Father (something I personally don’t like). He could even have them do the collection if he liked.
There are lots of ways that a priest can get children involved and increase their participation at Mass, without resorting having to resort to liturgical abuse.
Show me where it says that. I have seen a child do the reading at a weekday Mass in the school’s local parish church, when the school attended. I have seen children read the Prayers of the Faithful. I know of one girl, who is under the age of 12 (and has not yet been confirmed) who is on her parish’s rota for reading the Prayers of the Faithful and she does an excellent job at it (better than many adults who do it).
Show me where it states that a person has to be confirmed before being allowed to do this, because I have never heard of that rule before.
It would seem that it is permissable in certain circumstances for a non-Confirmed child/youth to serve as lector. [bold is mine]
Lectors are fully initiated, practicing Catholics whose lives witness to the Word which they proclaim. On special occasions and for pastoral reasons, a young person who is not yet fully initiated (i.e., not yet confirmed) may serve as lector during a liturgy. Proper training for this ministry is expected.
Readers are to be fully initiated, practicing Catholics whose lives witness to the word which they proclaim.
…] In special situations and for pastoral reasons, e.g. parish school and religious education liturgies, a young person who is not yet fully initiated, but properly prepared, may be permitted to read.
Lectors are fully initiated (confirmed), practicing Catholics whose lives witness to the Word which they proclaim; with a love for the Scriptures and a love for those who will be listening to that Word. Those engaged in this liturgical role need to be well prepared for this role and know how to carry it out with reverence, dignity and understanding. On special occasions and for pastoral reasons, a young person who is not yet fully initiated (i.e., not yet confirmed) may serve as lector during a liturgy. Proper training for this ministry is expected.
Source PDF: holycross-batavia.org/pdf/sched_lectors_2012-01-01_2012-12-31_lector_guidelines.pdf
Neither of these things should have happened. I’ve heard of the kid hand holding around the altar during the Our Father, but I am pretty shocked at a child reading the Gospel. At the parish school I work at, the children read the readings, but definitely never the Gospel.
There is no such rule since the Directory on Masses with Children allows children to be readers at an age when they wouldn’t have been confirmed in many, if not most, dioceses.
Canon Law mandates Confirmation only for two things: being a Baptism or Confirmation sponsor & being ordained. It shows a distinct wish that one be confirmed before marriage but even there allows for marriage without Confirmation.
That’s not to say that bishops can’t make such a rule for their parishes, but it’s not Church law by any stretch.
The rubrics specifically prescribe that only the priest or deacon can read the Gospel. So, that is mandatory.
The rubrics is silent on holding hands at the Our Father (the US Bishop Conference makes clear that the rubrics is silent on whether it is permitted or prohibited). As such, it is left to the good sense of the priest, considering the preferences of the congregation and local culture. Of those priests whom I have seen inviting children up to the altar to hold hands, most have done it well. Though I have also seen it badly executed.
My approach to children’s liturgy is (i) what is permitted according to GIRM and DMC; and then within those parameters, (ii) what is practically and pastorlly (is there such a word?) best to bring out children’s sense of worship during the liturgy.
For instance, I normally would not like to have children reading at mass unless they do it well - clear words, correct intonation and considered interpretations (adults may need to guide on this last point during preparations). The objectives of the mass takes precedence over the objectives of involving children in the mass. Once we are sure the mass will go well, can we then work out children’s involvement. I cringe when children are put to read because they sound so cute!! :mad:
By the same token, I normally don’t like children acting out the readings unless it is well prepared before hand. The mass is too important for us to rely on just that one rehearsal the Saturday before.
But as always, things very much depend the situation - the priest you have, the abilities of the children, the understanding and time the adult supervisors bring to the celebration, the setting, the local culture, the response of the congregations, and lastly but not least, the meddling parents ;). There is a lot of thought required to conduct a children’s liturgy, more than “its okay” or “its nice” or, at the other extreme, “what is not stated in the General Instructions is prohibited”. Good liturgy is not ‘play-by-ear’ or just follow the manual - a lot of hard work and preparation is needed.
I’ve always hated having children read because it’s First Communion. So often you get the kids who can’t do it well being sent up. This is of no use to the community because the whole point of doing the readings is transmitting the Word to the community, not looking cute. Often, in order to involve more kids, both readings will be split between children, a direct violation of the GIRM which says that that may only happen with the Passion.
Truth be told, I feel like a prior Director of Catechesis did, children who are receiving their First Communion or being confirmed should only have to think about the sacrament they are about to receive and should not be involved in ministry at that particular Mass.
That’s not to say that children can’t be readers. We had two sisters who read from the time they were 8. Both did it better than most of our adult readers although it could be disconcerting hearing the word ‘fornication’ coming out of such young mouths. Then you wondered if they understood what they were reading, something we’ve been taught is necessary to properly transmit the message.
For a few years in my parish we had what was called a Family Mass. It was the only Mass on third Sunday of each month and at that Mass the children read, took up the collection, presented the offerings and, the highlight, a ‘catechist’ did the ‘homily’, bringing all the children to sit on the floor in the sanctuary and then the priest had all the kids around the altar for the Consecration until after the Sign of Peace. It was a zoo!
All too often the children couldn’t read properly (in one unforgettable incident a parent had to stand beside the child and whisper the words in his ear because he didn’t know HOW to read) and were not well behaved during the Consecration. As for the ‘homily’, one famous day the ‘catechist’ (read, untrained volunteer parent) told the children that the Blessed Sacrament was a symbol of Jesus. The seminarian sitting there almost had a stroke. Nobody corrected her. One Sunday it was sooo bad that I was too angry to go to Communion and another person left Mass in tears.
I grew so tired of hearing “we have to let them read so they know how to do it when they grow up”. NO! You have to teach them how to read and when they know how to do it well, THEN you let them read at Mass. The ambo is not the place to train kids to read well, it’s a place to bring kids who are well trained to read.
Thankfully, these Masses were stopped and the only remnant of the practice is the 6 pm Mass on Christmas Eve, which I avoid like the plague, and which, depending on the Pastor, can degenerate to the point where kids are running all over the sanctuary at all times. One Pastor would say, “Let them go, Christmas is all about kids.” ???
My pastor keeps reporting that statistically most of those who receive First Communion these days will never set foot inside Church again. I’m not defending the priest’s actions, he definitely should not allow it, but from his perspective, what does he have to lose? Who knows, maybe his bishop allows this on special occasions. Even in the EF, where women are “never” allowed in the sanctuary, they are allowed to make First Communion there (and when they wed). Just trying to see both sides here.